RICHMOND VA (AP) – Dominion Energy from Virginia is attempting to build the country’s largest Atlantic marine wind farm. But the company and its supporters recognize the economic opportunities that will come with the 176 turbines project.
The country’s regulators, who are currently considering approval of the massive project, warn that the economic picture might not be so bright.
In testimony filed earlier in the month, regulators claimed that while the company claimed the wind farm would increase tax growth and create jobs, it used “outdated” research that did little to consider the impact on Virginia’s tariff payers. This was to justify the nearly $ 10 billion project cost. The National Company Commission’s analysis found that the project would have an economic impact, including the loss of 1,100 jobs in the first five years. This could negate any “speculative” benefits.
“Any economic benefits expected to arise from new investment in Hampton Rhodes or Virginia that supports the development of offshore winds facilities will do so because of this,” said Mark Cresley, director of public service regulation. Mark Cresley (director of public service regulation) said that it is uncertain how much this new investment will occur.
Dominion filed a rebuttal Friday to Cressley’s testimony. They argued that Virginia Clean Economy Act 2020 (or VCEA), which helped create wind farms, does not allow for such cost-benefit analysis.
Dominion Wind Farm will be situated approximately 27 miles (43km) from Virginia Beach. It has been in development for many years. In September 2019, the company revealed its plans for a commercial-scale project. Dominion already had a pilot project for marine wind with two turbines.
Dominion presented its application for the whole project to the committee in November. Since then, interested parties from Walmart to Sierra Club have joined as interveners in the case. An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for May 17. A spokesperson said that the committee must make a decision by August 5 on whether or not to approve the project. The costs will be reimbursed through tariff fees.
Dominion will be able to meet its VCEA goals. This is a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s energy policy, which was enacted by Democrats. It included several renewable energy seats that were designed to address climate change. The company will also be able to meet its goal of zero net greenhouse gas emission by 2050 through the wind farm.
Dominion was directed by the VCEA that it submit to the committee a plan for economic development.
Dominion instead of conducting independent research, relied upon research Cressley had done for The Hampton Roads Alliance, a nonprofit economic development agency.
Citing this 2020 report, the company estimated that the project would create approximately 900 jobs per year and generate over $ 143million in economic output annually during construction. The report projected that the wind farm would generate 1,100 jobs annually and $ 209.8 millions in economic output each year once it was operational.
Cressley explained that the SCC team could not verify these results. They searched for data to support the conclusions of the Dominion report and were informed that they did not have any data or models.
The SCC deemed the Dominion report outdated and stated that it was based on data from the UK.
John Larson (Dominion’s director for public policy and economic growth), rebutted the assertion that “the claim that information is “slightly outdated” doesn’t support the reliability or substantive analysis of the data.”
Larson stated that relying upon data from the UK shouldn’t be a concern. It is practical and necessary given the U.S. maritime winds industry. There are also households in other areas.
Some customers won’t change their spending, even if the increase in their spending is small. Others may just reduce their savings, he said.
Larson explained that nothing in the VCEA requires the company to perform its own analysis on “economic development costs” nor obliges it to submit such analysis to the commission.
He wrote that the General Assembly had set standards and goals for clean energy in the Commonwealth. “Based on the built-in nature the public service, there will also be costs to the customer.”
There is also evidence from outside that raises concerns about Dominion’s lack of experience in maritime wind industry and the project’s high price tag. The committee has been asked to look at a variety of tariff payer protections including independent monitoring, performance assurance, and cost quotas.
Unfounded testimony was given by a Dominion official who argued against each proposal and defended the company’s position as “a leader in the development of marine spirit in the United States.”
Jeremy Slighton, spokesperson of Dominion, said Monday in a statement that Dominion is pleased that “all parties have focused on ways and get the best project possible and nobody has objected”.